Of all the things that are hard about being a writer, cultivating discipline is probably the hardest. I've been struggling with it for years, for what feels like my whole life. And I don't think I'm alone. Other people struggle with it too.
A couple of years back, when I was looking for a house, my Realtor mentioned the program she had developed to deal with her occasional lapses of discipline. She had a buddy system with another Realtor, and they would give one another weekly assignments. Her buddy might tell her that her job for the week was to get two new clients, or fix up her office, or catch up with her filing, or whatever. And if one of them failed to complete her assignment, she would pay a penalty.
"If she doesn't do her assignment, she has to pay me a hundred bucks," my Realtor explained. "And me... well, I'm also motivated by money. But in smaller amounts. So if I don't complete my assignment, I have to give her twenty bucks."
Hmm... ok. So, let's set aside for the moment the fact that my Realtor was obviously running quite the racket on her "buddy." It still seems like a good idea. And since I heard about it, I've been looking, casual-like, for a buddy of my very own.
And I've finally got one. I brought up the system to my friend Becky the other night, and she agreed to buddy up. She has a dissertation; I have a book. We both want to get done. We're designing our own assignments for the moment, since we don't know all that much about one another's processes, but I think that should be ok. And we have equitable penalties -- fifty bucks apiece.
So, it's on. Ten pages for her, three edited scenes for me: all by Sunday morning. I feel pretty confident about getting there because... uh, yeah, fifty bucks. Which means it may not be long until my book is packed into on envelope on its way to New York.